- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Twenty-one black current and former city police officers have filed a federal class-action lawsuit, claiming discrimination within the city’s police department.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, accuses the department of condoning a hostile workplace, blocking black officers from promotion, levying uneven discipline and retaliating against officers who spoke out against discrimination.

It also says that racism led to the firing last month of police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark.

The group of officers seeks the appointment of an independent monitor over department discipline, reinstatement of fired officers, expunging of negative marks from the disciplinary records of some officers, payment of lost wages to plaintiffs who were suspended without pay or fired because of racism, and punitive damages and compensation.

The lawsuit names as its defendants Mayor Martin O’Malley, acting police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm, former police Commissioners Edward T. Norris and Thomas C. Frazier, Labor Commissioner Sean R. Malone and other city lawyers.

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler called the accusations “untrue” and said many are barred by statutes of limitations.

“People who have serious issues to raise come in to present them. They don’t issue press releases,” he said. “What I know in the short time I’ve had to look at it is that a large number of plaintiffs are people who have had what we call ‘troubled’ histories in the police department.”

The lawsuit’s accusations reach back to 1994. The lawsuit excludes Mr. Clark and former Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel, both of whom served under Mr. O’Malley.

In claiming racism in the firing of Mr. Clark, the lawsuit says that former Internal Affairs Chief Zeinab Rabold, a plaintiff and one of Mr. Clark’s closest advisers, “discovered evidence that showed an effort by certain white members of the BPD to remove former Commissioner Clark.”

It also states that Mr. Daniel was dismissed in less than 60 days because he spoke out against racism in the department.

Mr. O’Malley fired Mr. Clark last month, saying domestic-abuse charges against the commissioner, though unsubstantiated, had eroded his leadership ability. Mr. Clark, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, has filed a separate action against Mr. O’Malley.

City officials said Monday that since Mr. O’Malley took office in 1999, the percentage of blacks has grown in several areas of the force. The number of sworn officers is up to 43 percent from 38 percent.

The lawsuit, in describing a hostile work environment, states that black officers have found dog feces wrapped in a black newspaper and placed on their desks, endured racial epithets, had hangman’s nooses placed in their lockers and had zebra stripes painted on pictures of their mixed-race children.

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